By Susan Snyder
We would like to believe deep down in our black hearts that if you destroy a thing, it stays destroyed. Yet, we all know that doesn’t happen because . . . zombies. Say what you will about the oversaturation of the undead in film. I get it. I’m pretty bored with the whole concept. But undead sharks? Grab your harpoons and aim for the head, folks, because we’re diving deep into the watery world of the living dead!
Unlike people films, shark films have barely scratched the scaly surface when it comes to this topic. A few of my favorite sharksploitation movies are undead movies. It feels contrived and overworked with people, but seems so fresh and shiny with sharks. Who said you can’t polish a turd? A little shark skin sandpaper and some elbow grease and you got yourself a poop diamond.
Now, please understand that undead sharks might not be exactly what we are used to when it comes to zombies. Traditional rules may not apply.
I just watched a brand new entry to this elite group of decomposing fish flesh. I had been waiting for years for Sky Sharks to be released. Why? Because it’s about flying zombie sharks with machine guns, jet engines, invisibility and ridden by zombie Nazis! I know, I know. I had to change my undies too. This movie is completely bananas. The plot is a jumbled mess, the acting is subpar and everything is candy-coated in CGI and technicolor. It’s as if the movie was filmed inside a video game. There’s crude nudity and over the top gore. Not for everyone. But if you’re reading this article, we both know who this is for, amiright? *wink*
The main draw to this bonkers bonanza are the zombie sharks. Back in 1944, the Nazi shitheads created a goo called K7B that brought their dead soldiers back to life. Naturally, those zombie Nazis needed a really fucking cool way to get around. Like . . . the coolest way imaginable. So they engineered sharks to fly, attached jet engines and machine guns, injected them with the same goo and voila! Honestly, I am not sure if these sharks are undead but they are still around from 1944 and ridden by zombies so I’m rolling with it. They are still sharks so they also eat people. BAM! The perfect weapon. Sky Sharks has other plot points and characters and blah blah, but that is all irrelevant compared to flying Nazi undead shark weapons. Let’s not pretend with each other. We don’t need anything else. Go watch this movie now. NOW.
Well, finish reading this article first then go watch it. Okay? Thanks.
My next entry in this dead flesh extravaganza is also Nazi related. I swear, I hate those fuckers. This is purely coincidence. Plus, it never really ends well for the Nazis. Ever.
Sharkenstein opens in black and white with silent movie font describing the legend of Frankenstein’s monster. It is now 1942 Germany. We see Nazis, wearing what look like trench coats made by Dickies, infiltrate and steal poor Doc Frankenstein’s sciencey stuff. This includes the creature’s heart and brain! What diabolical plans could these badly dressed Nazis have in mind?
Modern times bring us to Katzman Cove, where boaters and bathers have gone missing. Very quickly, we get to see the patchwork fish approaching his first kill. Um, he is utterly adorbs! Is the monster growling or maybe having an asthma attack as he leaps from the water to snatch his first victim from the beach? It really doesn’t matter because he is so cartoony and precious, I can’t even stand it. It’s like a trunkless/earless elephant had a baby with your Grandma’s quilt. Squeeee! If they ever make a plush version of Sharkenstein it is totally going on my Xmas list.
Turns out, the heart and brain of the original Frankenstein’s monster was put inside a bunch of shark pieces. This, you see, is part of a great experiment designed to bring about an unstoppable new race who will start a war that the Nazis might win this time (good luck with that). Enter a lightning storm and crash, bam and zap-a-dee-doo-da and we have ourselves a Sharkenstein.
Sharkenstein’s brain doesn’t quite like being inside the bastard shark of a thousand maniacs, so he is a little unstable. The Nazis can’t control the new creation and things get a touch out of control. Later, the looney tunes leviathan turns into a claymation carnivore that would make Harryhausen set himself on fire. Think blue, buff and bolts through the neck.
I cannot recommend this movie enough, you guys.
Next we have Zombie Shark (aka Shark Island), which wins the prize for the most beheading. Even the sharks are sometimes beheaded which brings me to who I have come to call Zombie Shark Head, or ZSH for short. His story is as old as time. Shark becomes zombie. Shark loses body and becomes ZSH. ZSH is found on a beach still chomping and growling like a stranded Deadite. Later on, we discover that the scientist of the complex was trying to create a regenerating agent that would help soldiers in battle (probably Nazis).
This movie brings us both zombie worlds! Sharks are infected and they infect people. Characters run around fighting zombies both aquatic and land-lubbing. Some backstories get introduced that ultimately pan out to nothing. You know, the usual. But ZSH shows us all we really need to know through his cold cataracted dead eyes. He, by far, is the most compelling sharksploitation character of the past decade. And has become a personal hero of mine. He ends up playing the most pivotal role in the film. I’m already designing my tattoo.
Lastly, allow me to wax poetic about Toxic Shark. I might be playing fast and loose with the undead theme here but bear with me. The douchebag running a resort knows that there is something icky in the water but tries to cover it up. This results in Toxic Shark, who not only eats people, but . . . wait for it . . . shoots green goo out of its proboscis-like blow hole like a sea-faring Dilophosaurus! OMG yes.
Other than the amazing slime hole, Toxic Shark is your typical growling CGI shark with bad teeth. But I am totally fine with that because . . . slime hole.
Not only can Toxic Shark eat you, but if you get scraped by its skin, you become infected. Slowly, you turn into a red-eyed blathering maniac and try to bite everyone in sight. Oh and if you bite them, they become infected! Yes, folks. This is a zombie shark virus movie within a straight shootin’ sharksploitation movie! It’s like all my dreams are coming true.
Honestly I never really understood what the green goo does to people. As the movie goes on, it seems Toxic Shark likes to circle back and eat those who are infected or who have gotten the squirt to the face. So I can only assume it is a marinade of some sort.
Phew! This is my longest installment in the Bad Biology series for a reason. A damn good reason. This little gem of a subgenre of a subgenre has produced some of the greatest sharksploitation films to date! They all hold wonderful surprises and goofy humor. Good or bad, we’ve come so far since Jaws, folks.
They’re coming to get you, Bruce!
Susan Snyder is a writer of horror short fiction and poetry. Broken Nails, her debut poetry collection, was released in July 2020. The short story “Param” which appeared in the Trigger Warning: Body Horror anthology from Madness Heart Press was nominated for a 2020 Splatterpunk award. Her work can be seen in the Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase and multiple magazines and anthologies. Susan writes a weekly shark movie review blog called Sharksploitation Sunday.